Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coney Island

Some of the last photos that Alan took were of Coney Island. It was a bright, dry day in January, the streets were quiet but the signage and lights managed to evoke the summer soundtrack of rides, eighties music, screams, laughs and barkers. Coney Island is particularly special in the off-season - its lore is easier to imagine, the trash is limp in the gutter, its peacefulness enhanced by the empty beaches, its lonely streets asleep except for the occasional passerby. He did manage to capture a man surreptitiously rounding a corner with a large bag from Nathan's, I have a feeling Alan headed there shortly after. He loved Coney Island and I can just see and hear him driving out there on a winter day - perhaps he had had the day off for appointments, I don't remember him going - but I can picture him getting into our hand-me-down car, talk radio or classic rock on, sunflower seeds in one hand, a Dr. Pepper in the other. He was always the one behind the wheel and I got a kick out of Alan driving because it was one of the rare instances (aside from Yankee games) in which his "Brooklyn-ness" came out - he swore at other drivers, a hint of an accent coming out and he could get really pissed when others got in the way. I have to say it gave me a bit of a thrill - my gentle man, yelling unpleasantries at poor old ladies and having no patience for out of town drivers. It gave me such a laugh, he was sheer entertainment and it was a great surprise to see sides of Alan that only came out on occasion. I'm not sure he knew how people sometimes waited with curiousity or baited breath to hear what he had to say and when what came out was some rude "Come Onnnnnnn..... jackass...." it was hilarious, it was scary, it would actually shut me up on occasion. I loved it. I love him. Always.

It was startling finding the photos on his camera, again, something I hadn't known - or maybe I did and I forgot. Regardless, "after-the-fact" mementos are gifts; haunting at times, but a gift - to see the world through his eyes. The DVR still records some of his shows - American Masters, Iconoclasts, 30 Rock, The Office and I can't cancel them. I watch some and erase what I know he wouldn't want. But it is hard. It is such a comfort to see his actions continue.

Last weekend Lily and I went with friends to Coney Island. The first time we went was on Alan's anniversary, so she is a vet now. It was a steamy warm day full of crowds, hotdogs and trash. And it was wonderful. Lily took in the sights and sounds and smells - everything new to her eyes and yet so familiar to Alan's. My friends asked if I wanted to go on The Cyclone and I declined. The last time I rode it it was springtime and Alan was in the hospital. He had urged me to go on a bachelorette party excursion for a dear friend - Alan hated feeling as though he was ever holding me back and yet it was torture for me to ever leave him. I went, rode the roller-coaster and that decision too was difficult. My worries and "what ifs" were taking over at that point and my fear of something going wrong on the ride with Alan where he was, were a force to be reckoned with. I went on it, a three minute electrifying distraction, but that was the last time. This time around I have a giggling 14.5 lb love that replaces my worries of last year - and as neurotic as it sounds, I am her only parent. And I experience that often, decisions feel weightier, responsibilities more daunting without a co-pilot to confer with, to share my concerns. What I would give to be able to go out for an evening with Alan and we could ask each other every ten minutes if we thought Lily was OK. Alan would say "What do you think she's doing?" and we'd both want to go home to look at her, watch her while she sleeps. So this time at The Cyclone I declined. When Lily Alan wants to go on it she can - and I'll look on from the sidelines, a nervous wreck, praying that Alan's got her in his sights.

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